Mar 23, 2023
Violet Evergarden, except actually good.

“I have no trouble communicating with women” - the protagonist.
“Wtf, how am I supposed to self-insert?” - weebs that were expecting a generic isekai / battle harem.

First, this show isn’t a battle harem academy despite the superficial appearance of one, it’s a slice-of-life comedy.
Second, it’s self-insert fiction in a very old-school western way, like Harry Harrison’s and Robert Howard’s books. The protagonist is a gigachad with bodybuilder's muscles, mad sword & sorcery skills, a multitude of diverse talents, and an ability to unhook bras with his eyes. Basically, he’s Conan the Barbarian - a self-insert in the sense that the audience would like to be like him - and *could* realistically imagine themselves in his place because everything about this character's talents is actually entirely rational from the writing perspective. The bodybuilder’s muscles come from hours of on-screen exercise, the fighting skills come from getting coached by genius mentors and years of military service, etc. When he restores an abandoned garden as a hobby project, this is done with weeks of manual labor (again, shown to us on-screen) - not with a Lvl. 999 Gardening cheat skill he got from a goddess as a reincarnation perk. The audience can imagine themselves achieving the same result if they put in the same amount of effort, had the same circumstances, etc.
The issue is, this isn’t a Conan the Barbarian novel, this is an anime, and [harem] anime does self-insert fantasy in a fundamentally different way. Harem anime self-insert characters usually are pathetic losers with no redeeming qualities whatsoever who magically luck into success with zero effort on their part. That’s because such anime knows its target audience, in particular, it understands that the idea of putting in any effort or having any talents scares and confuses them. This contradiction between the approach and the medium is the reason why we get to hear these laugh/cringe-inducing cope takes from self-inserters about this protagonist being “generic” or “unrelatable.” Yeah, imagine relating to having no trouble communicating with women, the mind boggles.
Anyway, these takes are straight-up gaslighting. Not only is this protagonist a well-written, well-developed character, there is also not a single other character similar to him in all of ~1100 anime titles I’ve seen at the time of writing. What makes him particularly unique is the personality of a smooth-talking idiot savant. Here’s how this fine chap introduces two girls to each other:
“This sweet angel is Elisa. She's got an exceptionally beautiful heart, excels at being considerate in subtle ways, studies hard, and is vastly knowledgeable.”
“And then this one-of-a-kind lady who loves and is loved by these transcendentally wavy twintails is Claris. She has the highest level of elegance, with which she expertly weaves perfect sweetness into her otherwise cool demeanor.”
Now’s a good moment to mention that you can actually find a similar protagonist if you try - and that protagonist is Violet Evergarden. Both The Iceblade Sorcerer and Violet Evergarden are stories about a veteran child soldier returning to the civilian world and trying to catch up on normal late-teens life while struggling with the demons of their past. Except Violet is an absolute caricature of a naruto-running autistic robot dog (seriously, I was expecting a reveal that she is a literal combat robot like Terminator, it would’ve made so much sense), whereas Ray is a realistic, well-developed character. One aspect of which is being naive and socially oblivious as a consequence of spending formatting years on the battlefield. If someone tried those lines above on women in real life, they would come off as sleazy, but Ray gets away with it because those lines are consistent with his overall behavior both for us, the audience, and for the characters within the story. He doesn’t mean those lines as compliments, they are his genuine unfiltered thoughts, and he isn’t worldly enough to think of the implications.

Also, if those introductions made you chuckle - that is entirely intentional. The show is unapologetically goofy and tries its best to be fun. Because, as I’ve said above, it’s a slice-of-life comedy, not a battle harem - as long as you actually open your eyes and look. It features none of the battle harem academy tropes, notably, it has pretty much zero fanservice (of the teen-boy-eroticism kind you’d expect in a battle harem specifically), opting instead for imaginative animation sequences and low-key bizarre, but wholesome comedy. The Iceblade Sorcerer has more in common with Bocchi The Rock and Yuru Camp than with something like Mahouka or Rakudai Kishi. When some random muppet-looking house spider came into the frame saying “I want to have wings,” my mind immediately jumped to pinecones from Yuru Camp saying “konnichiwa.” As for the way the series handles self-insert fantasy - how many socially-anxious teens do you think were like, “Bocchi is just like me, fr fr no cap” while watching Bocchi The Rock? The Iceblade Sorcerer is self-insert fiction in the same way Bocchi The Rock is self-insert fiction.
Also, I’ve seen complaints about animation quality - those are daft and philistine. The show is very visually engaging with visionary and competent direction. Its sound direction is top-notch too, particularly how it uses insert songs to set up the mood.

9/10 for an entertaining cartoon.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9
What did you think of this review?
Nice Nice0
Love it Love it0
Funny Funny0
Show all
It’s time to ditch the text file.
Keep track of your anime easily by creating your own list.
Sign Up Login